CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Leaseholders fear bill after being told West Hampstead Square development has ‘flammable’ cladding

'If I could sell, I would have sold a long time ago, as I know others would have'

23 January, 2021 — By Harry Taylor

West Hampstead Square was built by developer Ballymore

LEASEHOLDERS fear they will be asked to stump up thousands of pounds in repair and replacement costs after “flammable” cladding was found on a block of flats in West Hampstead.

Residents in West Hampstead Square received letters in December which said an investigation had found that some of the cladding on the external wall was rated “B2” – meaning fire protection is inadequate.

Developer Ballymore, the firm which part-owns and manages the block in West End Lane, warned that a “considerable amount” of work is needed to repair and replace the cladding – and that leaseholders will have to pay.

“The cost of such works are recoverable from leaseholders via the service charge under the terms of their lease,” it added. Others in similar situations across the country have been billed up to £115,000 each. Many have had additional problems with remortgaging or selling their homes, as well as getting building insurance.

Ballymore told the New Journal it had registered with the government’s £1billion Building Safety Fund, which should help alleviate costs, but the sum residents will have to pay remains unclear.

In its latest accounts Ballymore, which owns the estate in a joint venture with Network Rail, made a profit of £80.3million in 2019. It was also behind the new US embassy in Nine Elms.

One leaseholder told the New Journal: “I don’t think people were questioning, ‘Do we have a cladding issue?’, because it’s such a new-build apartment. I don’t think they started to question it until the fire brigade said that the balconies were flammable.”

The leaseholder added: “I bought the apartment off-plan. It was two years delayed and since it’s been there Ballymore have been absolutely useless. If I could sell, I would have sold a long time ago, as I know others would have.”

In August 2018, the Orwell building on the estate was evacuated after a blaze caused by a discarded cigarette butt caused a balcony fire.

The need to replace cladding on some buildings was exposed by the Grenfell Tower fire disaster in north Kensington during the previous year.

Seventy-two people died at the block which was clad in an aluminium composite material. Councils and developers removed similar material from their properties, including at the Chalcots estate which was evacuated in June 2017 in the middle of the fire safety crisis, leaving some residents sleeping on a leisure centre floor.

A Ballymore spokes­person said: “We have explained the fire engineer’s findings and recommendations to leaseholders and we are currently progressing the design of the remedial works. Detailed costs will be known later this year, when the design is complete and a scope of works has been prepared.”

They added: “In terms of interim measures to assure fire safety, a simultaneous evacuation policy has been implemented which is overseen by the estate management team. No outside contractors need to be employed for this task. “In the unlikely event of a fire occurring or indeed the fire alarm sounding, the team will raise a separate manual alarm and assist with the speedy evacuation of the building.

“We have assured leaseholders that the interim measures are being implemented as a precaution only. There is a comprehensive fire strategy in place and the building is routinely inspected and the fire systems frequently tested.”

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